Author: Mário Santiago de Carvalho
Part of: Pedro da Fonseca: the Portuguese Aristotle (coord. by António Manuel Martins)
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Published: January, 29th, 2020
DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3630404

The latest version of this entry may be cited as follows: Carvalho, Mário Santiago de, “Fonseca, Pedro da”, Encyclopedia, Mário Santiago de Carvalho, Simone Guidi (eds.), doi = “10.5281/zenodo.2563270”, URL = “”, latest revision: January, 29th, 2020.


It is still impossible to write a critical biography of Pedro da Fonseca (1527-1599). For this article, I could not always yet check original documentation and for that reason, I have to rely mostly upon secondary bibliography. Unfortunately, historians are not at all consistent among them and sometimes they even take different stances when interpreting the documents. Nevertheless, this is the first comprehensive and reasoned Fonseca’s biography. The reader must cautiously consider the divisions proposed below. We will expect to periodically rewrite Fonseca’s biography as new documentation is presented or discovered. For previous tentative biographies see: Martins 2019; Carvalho 2001; Doyle 1998; Gomes 1966; Tavares 1953; see also the updated edition of João Madeira’s bibliography published here.

The early years (1527-1548)

Pedro da Fonseca was born in 1527 or 1528, in Cortiçada (now Proença-a-Nova), one of the twelve villages belonging to the Crato priory (Priorado do Crato), located less than ninety kilometers from Coimbra. Cortiçada will receive its new administrative law (Foral Novo) given by King Manuel, the Fortunate, in 1572. Fonseca’s parents were Pedro da Fonseca, a member of the Fonseca family of the Cortiçada majorat, and Helena Dias (Franco 1719: 393; Rodrigues 1931a: 457) but little is known about the time the young Fonseca spent in his native village. According to his own words, written later on (see Gomes 1964: XXIII), he stayed in his hometown until the age of fourteen and learned there a few rudiments of Latin (e apprendi te hun pouco de latim). At the age of nineteen or twenty (1547) he enrolled at the College of Arts in Coimbra, after having lived in a noble’s house (estive en casa d’hum fidalgo, donde me vim aos studos de Coimbra; see Gomes 1964: XXII). The College of Arts was already forming Portuguese youth in that city since 1530 but after its new foundation (1542), by King John III, it was also known as the Royal College of Arts (Brandão 1924) and cannot be confused with the Coimbra College of Jesus. The latter was founded on April 14, 1542, after the Jesuits arrival in Coimbra, headed by Father Simão Rodrigues (Tellez 1645: 94ff.; Rodrigues 1931a: 405 ff.). It may be assumed that Fonseca was sent to Coimbra not to become a Jesuit but to take the course which would allow him to graduate at the university. In the Royal College Fonseca took, in his own words, “six or seven months of the course of the arts”. At that time his knowledge of Latin counted already overall “three or four years”. Another document mentions the study of Greek (see Gomes 1964: XXV). We do not know exactly who were his teachers at the Royal College of Arts but if he was one of the first students of the newest College, located downtown Coimbra, he could have been followed the lessons of Luís Álvares Cabral (1st course of 1547/48). However, since he claims to have followed the course only for six or seven months, it is more likely he has heard instead Manuel de Pina (2nd course) or Diogo de Contreiras (3rd course) – and more unlikely Rui Lopes (4th course). Arguably, he could also there get acquainted with teachers like Nicolas Grouchy, Belchior Beleago, António de Souto, and Pedro de Monção, among others. It is reasonable to believe that Fonseca heard on February 21, 1548, Arnauld Fabrice’s opening speech of the Royal College academic year.

Fonseca’s first period as a Jesuit (1548-1561)

On March 17, 1548, without leaving Coimbra, Fonseca joined the Society of Jesus. The Jesuit community there lived uptown Rua Nova d’El-Rei (Rodrigues 1931a: 308) and we know that in 1546 the College of Jesus had already ninety-five residents. When Fonseca joined the Society, the first stones of what will become the Jesuit definitive house and future College, designed to receive about two hundred candidates, had already been put into place (Rodrigues 1931a: 401 ff.). Fonseca does not say where he continued the study of Latin, only for one month, and for “two or more months, the study of arts and three months of theology” (see Gomes 1964: XXII). Immediately after their arrival, the Jesuits had started the mission of gaining new companions among the university and the arts students. Melchior Nunes Barreto, Gonçalo da Silveira, Rodrigo de Meneses, Luís da Grã, António Correia and Nuno Ribeiro were among the first to enter into the Society of Jesus directly coming from the University of Coimbra (mostly from its Faculties of Civil and Canon Law and Theology). When Pedro da Fonseca joined the Society of Jesus, Luís da Grã was the fourth Rector of the Coimbra College of Jesus. Fonseca had likely studied theology and arts already in the College of Jesus. However, everything seems to indicate that he was not a regular arts student since it would be impossible to conclude the arts course in only two academic years, 1547/48 (five or six months) and 1548/49 (two months more, starting from March). He explicitly admits being frequently sick, badly suited to the method of disputes and the knowledge of languages or the study of humanities (humanidade), and of having a poor memory. However, he recognises his natural ability to the study of arts (todas as letras, tirando principios de lingoas) and his excitement with the study of Scripture and moral subject matters (Gomes 1964: XXIII). To be sure, already in 1542, it was possible to follow small courses (humanities, philosophy and theology) in the downtown Coimbra College of Jesus. In a letter to Ignatius of Loyola (November 23, 1554), without identifying the teacher occupied with such a subject, the seventh Rector of the College of Jesus, Leão Henriques, informs that logic is taught using Francis Titelmans’s De consideratione dialectica (see Rodrigues 1931b: 465, for the reproduction of the letter by Henriques; see also Santos 1955b). In October 1552, viz. the year the arts course opens in the College of Jesus, Fonseca’s name is mentioned as teaching “almost the entire Logic”. Thanks to a letter from João Nunes Barreto to Loyola (1554) we know some of the lecturers in the College of Jesus. In this letter, Barreto refers to the poor teaching level of Diogo Mirão, Miguel Torres, Leão Henriques and Marcos Jorge (Rodrigues 1931a: 547, 575; Brandão 1933: 13). The name of Fonseca is not mentioned but in that year he was a Jesuit brother already following theological studies in the College of Jesus. Leão Henriques (graduated in canon and civil law by the University of Coimbra) is reported to be the first to teach cases of conscience or moral theology there (1553), and Jorge Serrão (graduated in theology by the University of Coimbra) the first to teach theology, in the same academic year (Tellez 1647: 254, 257; Epistolae 1900: 257). Arguably, these two could have been the teachers Fonseca alludes to when, on § 6 of the Examen pro scholasticis, he positively evaluates their teaching method and, to a lesser degree, their relationship with the students as well as their erudition (Gomes 1964: XXIII). However, this contrasts with Barreto’s depreciative evaluation. According to Fonseca’s own words, in an earlier time (circa 1550/51), he left Coimbra and stayed in Spain (probably Galicia, unlikely Castile, since in a famous letter to Jerome Nadal he apologizes for his bad knowledge of Castilian language justifying it by never having been in Castile, nunca anduue en Castilla: see Gomes 1964: XXVIII). Also at the beginning of the new decade, Fonseca was in the Monastery of Sanfins de Friestas, a Jesuit house headed by Manuel Godinho (see however Carvalho 2001). There he could have heard Melchior Luis’s lessons (if he ever taught there), who unexpectedly left the Society of Jesus. The old Benedictine monastery of Sanfins had been founded before the 9th century and delivered to the Society of Jesus by King John III in 1545 mostly for financial reasons (it provided the Coimbra Jesuit College with two hundred and thousand maravedis). Sanfins was used mostly to seat missionary activities in the north of the country; to temporary harbour those who had to sail northern Europe, departing from La Coruña; to accommodate retreatants who were making the Spiritual Exercises; or even used as a prison, as happened in 1591 for five months to an homonymous of Fonseca (born in Tavira, Algarve). Among the most prestigious residents in Sanfins, historians mention Manuel da Nóbrega (1547), and later (1550) a group of twenty more Jesuits, such as Manuel Godinho, Inácio Martins, Afonso Barreto, Marcos Jorge and, of course, the future martyr Inácio de Azevedo and Pedro da Fonseca. Jesuit historians reproduce a charitable and religious episode therein towards a leper man having Azevedo and Fonseca as protagonists (Rodrigues 1931a: 577, 457, 681; Franco 1726: 29). In his return from visiting Ignatius in Rome, Simão Rodrigues also stayed for a while in 1551 at the Monastery (Rodrigues 1931b: 65) but, probably, the abandonment of the Society by twelve of thirteen residents, who have been sent to Sanfins in order to overcome the tribulations the Society experienced between 1552 and 1553 on account of the affair Luís Gonçalves da Câmara vs Simão Rodrigues, is a better-known episode related to the history of Sanfins (Rodrigues 1931b: 125). The beginning of the Fifties coincides with a period where historians usually put Fonseca in too many places (Sanfins, Spain, Évora and Lisbon) for such a short time. In the present state of the art, it is impossible to solve this issue. As already mentioned, in 1552, while still a student in theology, and after a brief stay in Évora (some historians also put him in Lisbon), Pedro da Fonseca lectured philosophy for almost two years, in the Coimbra College of Jesus, to seventeen Jesuit candidates (Rodrigues 1931a: 575) – by that time novices and students were still sharing the College premises. Around that year and until 1553 that great crisis (or “tribulation” as the historian of the Society Francisco Rodrigues depicts it) began, affecting the Portuguese province and, of course, having its necessary side-effects in the College of Jesus. The dispute was about the spiritual character the Society should incorporate and explains the nomination of Miguel Torres as the visitor for Portugal (July 1552) and the mission of Jerome Nadal therein (July 1553). Nadal is said to have witnessed the end of the crisis, in the sequence of the arrival of Ignatius’ letter on the virtue of the obedience (signed on March 26, 1553) to Portugal and Coimbra. Apparently Fonseca took sides with Câmara’s more rigorous party (Rodrigues 1938a: 297). We have tackled earlier Fonseca’s time as a student in Coimbra. If he ever was one of the students of the first course of the Royal College he could never have been sent to Évora (1551) – which he was, to collaborate in founding the Jesuit University there, and in the education of the prior of Crato (Rosa 2013: 191), let us recall that Fonseca’s village was a domain of that priory –, for a regular course would take him at least until midst 1552. Now, since he is said to be in Sanfins in 1551 he could not have finished the arts course within the expected time and by the age of twenty either he stood up already as a promising scholar (es de muy rara habilidad y en esto muy doctor, as later it will be recognised) or the College of Jesus was in shortage of teachers – the original document reads: “y no oyo mas porq. le occuparon luego en leer un curso de artes en casa q. leio quasi dos annos”. Some interpreters assume that during his first and second (1555) brief stays in Évora, Pedro da Fonseca got acquainted with Bartolomeu dos Mártires, a distinct theologian and future archbishop of Braga (Franco 1719: 394). João Olmedo, Pedro Margalho and Luís Álvares Cabral were other theologians Fonseca could have known, while in Évora (Rodrigues 1931a: 584). Despite so many voids, one fact is sure, Fonseca was one of the four Jesuits who began to teach at the Royal College of Arts when in 1555 King John III handed down his Royal College to the Society of Jesus (the other teachers being, Pedro Gómez, Sebastião de Morais and Inácio Martins). During this teaching period at the College of Arts, Fonseca shared the cloister with other staff members such as Marcos Jorge, Manuel Rodrigues and Nicolau Gracida and he surely must have known Luis de Molina, the most illustrious student of Sebastião de Morais. The already mentioned Pedro Gómez and Marcos Jorge will reappear later by the time the Coimbra Jesuit Course was being prepared. In some sort related to this, a question may be put, regarding where and with whom Fonseca could have taken (or already improved) his knowledge of Greek, so much emphasized already in the 18th century by historian of the Society António Franco (1719: 400). We may not forget that Pedro da Fonseca will be later known as the “Portuguese Aristotle” on account of (among other logical works) his outstanding accomplishment, namely the critical edition, translation and commentary of Aristotle’s Metaphysics (Ceñal 1943; Martins 2019). We will say, in due time, that this scholarly endeavour would have been impossible without the time he later spent in Rome; nonetheless, it would have been impossible to achieve it without previous knowledge of Greek. We have already referred to a document, from the first days of Fonseca’s presence in Coimbra that mentions his knowledge of that language. Moreover, on January 2, 1572, that is, one year before Fonseca travels to Rome, Manuel Álvares reports that in 1571 Fonseca was in Val do Rosal, a kind of retirement and working place the Jesuits owned in Costa da Caparica (Sousa 1744: 155; Rodrigues 1938b: 487); he is reported to be then actively or passionately working (com grande calor) on the composition of the Commentaries on the Metaphysics (Rodrigues 1938b: 104). Such a task could not be performed without real knowledge and contact with the original Aristotelian text. The Jesuit College of Jesus, and the Coimbra lay and university cultural milieu was far from ignoring the Greek. Without dwelling on the remarkable case of António Luís, a physician who is said to teach Galen in Greek for his university students (1547/50), we also know that between 1548 and 1550 Nicolas Grouchy was giving lessons of Greek. Besides Belchior Beleago, who had been the editor of the translation of Aristotle’s Dialectic, carried out by Nicolas Grouchy (1549a and 1549b), Fonseca could also have followed the lessons of the German, Vincent, or the French Arnauld, both named Fabricius and lectures of Greek at the College of Arts. Gomes (1964: XXIII) only quotes Grouchy as one of the possible teachers of Fonseca. Indeed, nothing more can be said about this issue, for the time being. Nevertheless, we insist, it is unlikely that if he ever listened to the lessons of those masters he did it as a formal student. Without denying the obvious – Fonseca shared the same time and place with all those Greek experts – this is another issue whose resolution will demand further research. Solid evidence is related to Fonseca’s teaching period in the Coimbra Royal College during two academic seasons. Unfortunately, the degree of our certitude decreases immediately if one tries to present with exactitude the subject matters of his lessons. He first lectured the 3rd and 4th courses (1555/57), replacing António de Souto, followed by an entire teaching course (i.e. three years and a half) from 1557 until 1561. Nicolau Gracida reports that in his first course Fonseca lectured for seventy-two students (only eleven among them were Jesuit brothers) and praises the quality of his teaching, que se dize nunca aver aquí alguno tan grauemente leído, ni con tan sólida doctrina. In this letter Gracida also describes Fonseca’s presidency over the examination of one licence degree ceremony: “Fonseca wisely responded in such a manner that his solutions were listened in reverence and silence by all (…) At the beginning, he made a short prayer with great contentment by us all and everybody was admired by the humility and peace that characterised his answers in contrast with the careless way he was then using the doctoral headdress (capelo)…” (Litterae Quadrimestres 934ff). Historians report that initially Fonseca was often substituted in the afternoon classes (Gomes 2012: 246) and he admits his discomfort in lecturing and disputing two lessons daily, sinto em mim repugnantia por leer cada dia duas lições de artes, e pera disputas dellas, pollo muito que me sinto debilitado deste exercicio, e por enfermar nelle tantas vezes (see Gomes 1964: XXIII). I have recently called the attention for one unexpected testimony from China, written by the Italian Jesuit Nicolò Longobardi, quoting a gloss on the Aristotelian Physics, written by Fonseca. It surely must date from his early teaching period in Coimbra (Carvalho 2019a and 2020) and the original text will be reproduced below in the paragraph dedicated to Fonseca’s works. Until now our knowledge about the existence of Fonseca’s manuscripts was related to Metaphysics, Logic and On the Soul – the latter in the hypothesis of being by Fonseca (Stegmüller 1931 and 1959 and Camps 2013; but see Silva & Rebalde 2013) and certainly composed in an early period. As a matter of fact, either the manuscript on Logic or one of the two related to On the Soul exhibit the following dates: initiated on October 2, 1556 (In terminorum introductionem), initiated on November 4, 1559, and finished on January 27, 1560 (In I-II de Anima). As we have written elsewhere (Carvalho 2010; 34-5 and 147), it is not advisable to rigidly consider the four-year study plan to arrive at any conclusion regarding the academic year in which a specific lesson was being lectured at a precise time of the course. Nevertheless, supposing that the teaching order was respected during the two periods in which Fonseca taught in the College of Arts, it would be unlikely to begin the third-course reading Logic (1555/56). The teaching of On the Soul (1559/60) and of course on Physics (1555/57 or 1559/61) would be much more plausible though. Since the latter subject matter is related to the only undated manuscript out of the three mentioned above (and due to the lack of information about who and when the manuscript eventually used by Longobardi arrived in China), it would not be impossible for Fonseca to have taught Aristotle’s Physics in the College of Jesus instead, in an earlier date (1553). Another consistent fact is the order sent on September 9, 1556 by King John III, to the University Rector, to concede the M.A. degree to Pedro da Fonseca, as well as to Marcos Jorge, Sebastião de Morais, Pedro Gómez, Jorge Serrão, Domingos Cardoso and Inácio Martins (Brandão 1933: 392-3; Rodrigues 1931a: 588). One year later precisely, on September 9, 1557, we find Pedro da Fonseca in Tomar carrying out the prosaic mission of purchasing houses in that city, 79 kilometres south of Coimbra (Brandão 1933: 273). In 1557, being a teacher of philosophy in the College of Arts, and already ordained priest, Fonseca preaches a sermon for the occasion of King John’s death (Litterae Quadrimestres 945).

Fonseca, the theologian and philosopher (1561-1573)

In his Examen pro scholasticis Pedro da Fonseca admits a real interest in theology whose study he is about to begin (me sinto affeiçoado ao studo da escriptura e dalgumas cousas morais, con ter tegoura pouca experientia deste genero de studios; see Gomes 1964: XXIII). Arguably, the third period of his biography testifies his enthusiasm and effort put not only in the theological studies but also his commitment to metaphysics and the future Coimbra Jesuit Course. What Fonseca could have done between April 1561, when he left teaching in the Royal College, and October 1564, when he began to lecture speculative theology in Évora, is not sufficiently clear. Surely he should have been busy preparing the Dialectical Instructions published precisely in Lisbon 1564, as well as teaching theology at the College of Jesus – the treaty on Predestination, between May and August of that year, to be exact (Gomes 2012: 237; see also Dias 1928: 268). If Fonseca ever followed the chair of Prima in the University of Coimbra – only after 1576 were the Jesuits allowed to exclusively hear theology courses in the College of Jesus (Rodrigues 1938b: 102) – we may conjecture that Fonseca could have listened to the lessons of Afonso do Prado, who taught his last course in 1557. Notwithstanding, Fonseca could have met other dons, such as Diogo de Paiva de Andrade, a supporter of the Society; and Marcos Romeiro and Paio Rodrigues de Vilarinho, who had both in their youth received a scholarship by King John III to get their degree in theology in Paris. Two facts in this period are relevant though. The first goes back to February 9, 1560, when the provincial Miguel Torres alludes for the first time to the existence of “some dictations” (unos dictados) related to philosophy (ditados de las artes) ready for the printing-press (para poderse imprimir) (Lukács 1974: 317). This situation ought to be the culmination of a shared exchange of lessons in manuscripts from Coimbra to Évora or from Évora to Coimbra. This can be inferred from two precious indications by Fonseca himself: one, from a letter dated January 14, 1562, summing up the Évora companions (y luego hizo auizar à los de Évora que attendiessen a ésto); the other, the allusion to the existence of “common manuscripts”, in the formal authorisation he wrote for the publication of Manuel de Góis’s Physica. Let us recall that, if the University in Évora was founded in 1559, the College of Espírito Santo was active since 1551 as well as that, in a crucial period of his formation, Fonseca stayed in Évora twice. Jerome Nadal’s instructions in 1651 committed the editorial endeavour to the responsibility of father provincial in order to deliver a product with the label of the Portuguese province of the Society of Jesus as a whole. At first, Torres’s does not allude to a formal “course” but such will explicitly be the case one-year later during Nadal’s visit. He instructs Fonseca to lead a team-work to deliver a written course to the Press (se procure que hum curso de scriptos se imprima, y en esto se occupe el P. Afonseca principalmente) (see Lukács 1974: 60; Gomes 1964: XXV). Although Fonseca was unable to execute the task, he immediately excluded Gómez from the team (dexando el P. Pero Gómez con las que tiene, porque harto haraa agora en acudirles), and this is the first announcement we know of what will be later celebrated as the Coimbra Jesuit Course. If this philosophical editorial achievement will turn out to be a gift from Manuel de Góis’ effort and commitment, it is nevertheless a fact that the course was published with Fonseca’s explicit and superior authorisation as it is clear in the first pages of the volume of Góis’s Physica. If we combine Gonçalves Vaz letter to Nadal (November 25, 1562) with Borgia’s request to Leão Henriques (October 29, 1567) it seems that during those five years Fonseca did comply the task committed to him by Rome and, since the past tense was used (el curso de las artes que ha scripto el P. Pedro da Fonseca), it even seems that Borgia thought that the Course was already finished in 1567. Strangely as it might seem, the second relevant point taking place in the beginning of the Sixties is not only the publication in 1564 of Fonseca’s Dialectical Instructions (Institutionum Dialecticarum Libri Octo); this is a product of his Coimbra experience as a teacher of philosophy immediately previous to the four months-period during which he is said to be teaching theology in the Coimbra College of Jesus (from May to August 1564). The Sixties also witness Fonseca’s first lectures on the “middle science” (scientia media/conditionata). Of course, two more moments in this period of his life are relevant. Firstly, the period during which Fonseca becomes the eighth Rector of the College of Arts (1567/1569), with the entire official bureaucratic duties implicated by that task and to which we will return soon. Secondly, his PhD ceremony in Évora and presidency over Inácio de Martins’s identical academic formality (March 1570) that anticipated the Fonseca’s teaching of Vespers in the University of Évora, replacing Luis de Molina. Historian of the Society, António Franco, explains that Fonseca’s remarkable presidency was enough to award him the PhD in Theology. King Sebastian, the Cardinal Henry, and the Duke of Guimarães attended the ceremony. At that occasion, Fonseca had Master Payo has his PhD godfather whereas Martins had the renowned Luis de Granada (Franco 1714: 394). Let us also recall that Martins had shared the Coimbra Royal College cloister with Fonseca and that between 1558 and 1562, namely between his twenty-three and twenty-seven years of age, Molina had been a student of theology in the Coimbra College of Jesus. In his eulogistic narrative, historian Franco (1719: 394) mentions 1566 as the first year in which Fonseca addressed the issue of the “scientia conditionata” (see also Machado 1752: 581, and Franco 1714: 56). Historians base this statement in a quotation written in 1596 by Fonseca in the Metaphysics that anticipates in thirty-year time the teaching of that doctrine. Here is the text in question: “Ante annos triginta, quam haec scriberemus (scribimus autem anno Domini nonagesimo sexto supra millesimum et quingentesimum) cum materiam de prouidentia diuina, et praedestinatione in publicis lectionibus essemus ingressi…” (Fonseca’s Metaphysica VI c. 2, q. 4, s. 8, § 1). Such a clear statement gave occasion to a dispute concerning the authorship of the doctrine of the so-called “scientia media” but a recent study on Luis de Molina’s Concordia, reviewing the literature thereof, allows one to sustain that, regardless the name of its author, that doctrine is, without doubt, a true product of the cultural atmosphere of the Coimbra College of Jesus during the effervescent Sixties (Rebalde 2015: 30-39; see also Rodrigues 1938b: 138-70). Returned from his fourth stay in Évora (April 1570), Pedro da Fonseca stays in Lisbon and surroundings (Charneca da Caparica) wholly committed to the study of metaphysics, thus taking his distances from the initial plan, meaning the composition of the philosophical Jesuit course to the press. It seems that Luís da Câmara, Miguel Torres, Manuel Álvares or João de Lucena were some of the Jesuits that shared Fonseca’s conviction on the need to start that project approaching first metaphysics (que seria mas aproposito começar por la Metaphysica para mas expedición de las cosas, y maior brevedad de lo demas; see Gomes 1964: XXXI). Thus, in August 1570 Fonseca begins the first volume of the commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, his philosophical masterpiece. According to Martins (2019: 330), “after two years, the text corresponding to the first books of Metaphysics was still not ready. Fonseca insisted on the need for more time without responsibilities that would disturb his research.” Some of Fonseca’s bureaucratic duties in Coimbra are known to us. For instance, in 1569 he informs Rome about the rhythm of the construction of the new set of buildings that were to definitively unite in one site only the Colleges of Jesus and Arts. In this same year, Fonseca taught theology (IIª-IIae 78) for one manuscript reads “De utio usurae in mutuis a P. D. Pedro da fonsequa Anno 1569” (BNL 3960/2, ff. 18-45v.). On December 19, 1569 he left his notes on how theology was taught in the College of Jesus (en casa) contrasted sharply with the lower teaching quality of the Chair of Prima at the University (escuelas mayores/de fuera): “De theologia se leen em casa tres liciones aunque una es de media hora por darse lugar a poder oyr la de prima que se lee en las escuelas mayores, aunque esta licion de fuera es tan poco provechosa y pierdese en ella tanto tiempo que deseauamos dexarla, si a V. P. pareciese, y con esto se podria largar mas el tiempo a la tercera de casa, y una podria ser de hora y media, como la de prima por ser toda muy provechosa.” (see Rodrigues 1938b: 100). Before Fonseca leaves to Évora again (December 1572), this time to attend the congregation that was to change his life as a scholar, King Sebastian signs the royal decree (“Alvará”) allowing the Society of Jesus to publish books in the Portuguese territory. The peace and tranquillity Fonseca had demanded to achieve his metaphysical work broke up. In December 1572, Fonseca attended in Évora the provincial congregation that would nominate delegates to the general congregation and since King Sebastian did not grant the permission for one of the nominees, Gonçalves da Câmara, to leave the country, Fonseca was obliged to go to Rome, replacing Câmara.

The Roman Period (1573-1582)

Perhaps it may be said that, without knowing it, King Sebastian’s decision would radically change the amplitude of Fonseca’s commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Fonseca duly acknowledges his debt towards the young King in 1577 by dedicating the first volume to him. What was supposed to be a short stay in Rome extended to almost ten fruitful years (1573-1582). Historian Gomes (1964: XXXI) says that during this period Fonseca came to Portugal in 1575 but, in our view, the section of the letter published in support of this claim, from Manuel Roiz to Everard Mercurian (March 29, 1575), does not corroborate it. Historian Santos (1955a: 465) reports that when Fonseca departed to Rome, he took with him Luis de Molina’s manuscripts. Allegedly, these were Molina’s philosophical texts prepared to integrate or even constitute the future Coimbra Jesuit Course, the manual that, as already said here, will be published mostly by Manuel de Góis instead. The superior general elected in 1573 to succeed Francis Borgia, the Belgian Everard Mercurian, appointed Pedro da Fonseca general assistant to the province of Portugal. Fonseca had then to live in Rome and his presence and competence could not pass unnoticed by his Jesuit companions and superiors. It seems that Pope Gregor XIII used to consult Fonseca on some Church matters (Carvalho 2001). One year before he definitively returns to Portugal, the fifth general, Claudio Acquaviva, appointed him (1581) to the twelve-member commission tasked with submitting a new version of the Ratio Studiorum. Historian Rodrigues (1938b: 19) doubts whether this commission ever produced anything. More important, however, is that during the ten years Fonseca spent in Rome, he could finally study more Greek codices of the Aristotelian text and other numerous sources. Here it is how an expert on Fonseca’s thought summarizes and focuses the Roman period of his life, mostly as the commentary on Metaphysics is concerned: “After revising the text and translating the first four books of Metaphysics, Fonseca was faced with the challenge of organizing the material over several volumes. He took the opportunity to participate in the programmatic discussions at the Roman College as required by his institutional position. In late 1577, five years after arriving in Rome and two years after his self-imposed deadline, the first volume of his commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics was published in Rome. In 1580, when Suárez went to Rome to teach theology at the Roman College, Fonseca bulky text represented a philosophical breakthrough that he was unable to ignore…” (Martins 2019: 330). To sum up, the productivity of this fourth period in Fonseca’s life is indisputable, since he managed to publish with the highest possible editorial standards the first volume of his philosophical masterpiece. However, it seems that the Portuguese province was becoming more unsatisfied with Fonseca’s delay to his commitment toward the Coimbra Jesuit Course. The second edition of his Dialectical Institutions (1574) appeared in Coimbra but in the meantime, in February 1573, when Everard had not yet been elected, Jorge Serrão was insisting with Rome that Fonseca should return to conclude that course. Fonseca reacted positively reassuring his province that he intended to come back to see it concluded. He only definitively throws the towel in 1589, when the second volume of his commentary on Metaphysics is published in Rome. While Manuel Rodrigues comes back twice (1575 and 1576) over the possible publication of the existing glosses, Fonseca is surely overwhelmed by the working commentary, whose first volume will be concluded on August 23, 1577. The scenario was about to change. Two years later, the Portuguese province insisted asking Mercurian’s permission to publish the philosophical materials. One does not know the extension of these materials and the name of the Jesuits responsible for them. Before August 1, 1580, Sebastião de Morais was finally carrying with him the formal and long-expected authorisation, from Rome, but only after Acquaviva’s election (February 7, 1581), with Fonseca still in Rome, was the definitive authorisation issued for good.

Fonseca, as “Lisbon benefactor”, and the take-over of the ‘Coimbra Jesuit Course’ by Góis (1582-1592)

Fonseca returns to Portugal one year later (1582) to guide the Lisbon Jesuit house of Saint Roque. In the next ten years of his life he will be indulged in finishing his huge metaphysical project, which he unfortunately never did; emerged in the process that led to the publication, by Manuel de Góis, of the Coimbra Jesuit Course; and occupied with the growth of the Society of Jesus as well as several of its Province affairs. His obituary refers that Fonseca frequently received consultations from Brazil, India and Japan and several items of the chronology we give below provide various references to some types of important religious duties across the decade. As a sign of King Philip’s appreciation of Pedro da Fonseca, says Franco (1719: 395), he was chosen by the monarch to integrate the Reformation Table (“Mesa da Reformação”) and to be one of the executors of the Infanta Dona Maria. The idea of giving him the bishopric of Japan crossed the King’s mind as well. During this fifth period of his life, Fonseca managed not only to write the second volume on the Metaphysics (book V), which was eventually published in Rome in 1589, but also to work hard in several improvements and foundations in the city of Lisbon. Attributing to Fonseca the title of “Lisbon benefactor”, Franco (1719: 397) dwells on several of Fonseca’s architectural interventions and developments in the House of Saint Roque, as well as other foundations, such as an establishment for recently converted Moors, and several houses for various kinds of females (one for converted women, another for converted young girls, a third, for unprotected girls, a fourth for orphaned daughters of the Spanish soldiers stationed in the castle of Lisbon). To those foundations in Lisbon, it must be added the College and Seminar for the Irish Catholics, founded in 1590 (Rodrigues 1938a: 134-8). Also, in his obituary, Fonseca is praised of having called priests from Italy, Flanders and Ireland to religiously assist their countrymen (Rodrigues 1938a: 591). In 1583, together with the archbishop D. Jorge de Almeida, Fonseca reformed the Convent of Saint Martha. In praise of Fonseca’s Christian qualities, Franco (1719: 398) underlines his charitable actions among the poor and the fight against profane comedies (see also Granja 1980), characteristics Franco interprets as a sign of an impatient and achieved-oriented person (porque de natural não era fleumático mas fogoso). On October 17, 1587, in his capacity of superior of the Jesuit house of Lisbon, Fonseca receives several relics offered to Saint Roque’s Church by Antonio de Borja, and in 1588 he is said to have offered to the Mercy of his native village a relic of the Holy Cross that, while in Rome, he had been honoured with by Pope Gregor XIII, as well as to donate a piece of land to the construction of the local Mercy Chapel (Franco 1719: 401). This a matter deserving further research by local historians. In 1589, at the age of sixty-three, he was appointed visitor of the Portuguese province, a position that absorbed three years of his life. It is also in 1589 that we find Fonseca in the Royal Palace, in Madrid. According to historian Franco (1719: 395), Fonseca had the mission conveyed to him by general Acquaviva of protesting before the King against the University of Coimbra pretensions of inspecting Jesuit schools. Another possible reason, namely the refutation of the so-called “libelo infamatório” written by Gaspar Coelho and Luís de Carvalho, may also explain Fonseca’s voyage to Madrid. Fonseca tried to end with the issue with the publication of a six-chapter and a prologue booklet entitled Sumaria Resposta ao livro que se publicou em Evora sem nome de autor em Março de 1591, intitulado ‘Observationes Constitutionum Societatis Iesu’ dada por ordem do Pe. Po. da Fonseca Visitador da mesma Companhia em Portugal, whose content is summarized by historian of the Society Rodrigues (1938a: 382-3). A very good indication that during all this political, bureaucratic and administrative time of his life he did not abandon his philosophical interests is the publication in Lisbon, in 1591 of the booklet Isagoge (Gomes 1965). Significantly, Fernão Carvalho, responsible for Fonseca’s obituary we have been using, attributes him the same punctuality that will become legendary in Kant’s life, a well-oiled clock person (o tempo repartido… que parecia sua vida hum relogio bem concertado) (see Rodrigues 1938a: 591; Franco 1719: 395; Alves 1955). Besides Fonseca’s commentary on Metaphysics, as well as the publication of the Isagoge, the most important Jesuit editorial achievement that came to light in these ten years of Fonseca’s life was the publication, in 1592, of Góis’s commentary on Physics. The importance of this date lies on the fact of that commentary being the first volume of the famous Coimbra Jesuit Course (1592-1606). This fact must be mentioned in Fonseca’s biography since, on the one hand, he became closely linked with this achievement – on behalf of the Society he signed the obligatory “nihil obstat” –, but, on the other hand, he did not appreciate it immediately very much and was gripped by Molina’s interference in the whole issue. This decade of Fonseca’s life begins almost with Molina’s “soli” letter (meaning, to be seen by the general’s eyes only) complaining of Fonseca and ends up with the latter questioning Góis’s work and personality or ambition (la sed que este padre tiene). The worries about Molina may have come to a halt by 1584 when Molina in Évora was deeply engaged with the edition of the commentary on the Summa theologiae Iª (1585) and the Concordia (1587). But in the Eighties Góis was surely overwhelmed by the composition of the Coimbra Jesuit Course whose first volume he managed to publish finally in 1592. On January 25, 1592 Fonseca alludes to Góis’s sadness of not being recognized as the author of that labour (todo su sentimiento es no salir esta obra en su nombre, y sin esto ninguna cosa lo contentará, y siempre hará por mostrarse en todas occasiones autor della; see Rodrigues 1938a: 116, 120). Moreover, on July 31, 1592, another Jesuit, João Álvares, sides by Fonseca criticising Góis and mentioning that the former should be the author of the desired printed course by addressing logic and metaphysics. This is a clear sign of a philosophical discrepancy between the two Jesuits, not the least because, as we have yet to say, in the end of 1594 when Fonseca achieves Metaphysica III, he is still working on an alternative volume on metaphysics (del compendio desta otra parte que se va haziendo) to integrate the Coimbra Jesuit Course. To sum up, while Góis choose to address philosophy through the lens of physics, Fonseca had a different stance on how to conceive a philosophy manual.

The unfinished metaphysical project, Fonseca’s final years (1592-1599)

Only in December 1596, Fonseca seems to accept the status of the Coimbra Jesuit Course. While all the books of Góis’s second phase of publication were being published (1593) and the third phase (1597, 1598) was well advanced, Fonseca never let his huge project on metaphysics down, even if briefly interrupted by a trip to Rome in 1593 to participate in the fifth general congregation, or even despite the dissatisfaction of allegedly two Portuguese (and other Roman) Jesuits towards two Fonseca’s metaphysical ideas (the doctrines on the virtual distinction and on God’s efficient causality; see Gomes 1964: L). Thanks to a letter by Francisco de Gouveia written in December 1594, we know that Fonseca was by then still working on the two distinct editions already mentioned, namely his own larger project on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and a compendium (el Pe. Fonseca com licencia de V. P. determina hazer compendio de su Metaphysica pera se leer en nuestras escuelas). Allegedly, the compendium would count with the aid of the controversial Pedro Luís but, unfortunately, it did not see the light of the day. If it ever had been published this manual would likely be the materialization of the idea Fonseca had initially in 1570, after coming from Évora. Góis’s imposing presence was still an issue in 1595 since Gouveia asked father general whether Góis should or should not continue to make his own internal references to Metaphysics; besides, Gouveia continues, Fonseca was slow and had uncommon ideas. Since the Jesuits were divided Gouveia preferred to leave the decision to Rome. “As testified by extant correspondence from 1595 and 1596 concerning the censorship of some allegedly unorthodox theses” (Martins 2019: 331), Fonseca achieves the third volume of the Metaphysics (books VI-IX) at the end of 1594. However, in the passage of his Metaphysics we have quoted above concerning the middle science, Fonseca confesses that he is writing book VI chap. 2 in 1596 and Nicolau Godinho is said to be assisting him in that work (Gomes 1960: 153). From a testimony by Baltasar Barreira dated from 1596 we know that Pedro da Fonseca regretted that Francisco Suárez was refusing to come to Coimbra. This is a decisive testimony since Fonseca met him in Rome in the Eighties, while Suárez was beginning to lecture on De Deo Creaturarum Omnium Effectore as well as on De Lege and De Iustitia et Iure. The third volume on the Metaphysics by Fonseca was only published posthumously in Évora in 1604, and the fourth, in Lyon in 1612 (books X-XIV). After having returned from his sixth stay in Évora, where he had been preparing the publication of the third volume of the Metaphysics, Fonseca got sick (1598). His own and authorised philosophical masterpiece would thus remain unfinished, since its last volume does not offer any commentary on the Aristotelian text, and sticks only the explanation (explanatio) of books X to XII and the edition and translation of the remaining book and chapters. This may be an indication on how Fonseca understood and applied his thoroughly working method: first, editing Aristotle’s Greek text; translating it, afterwards; thirdly, working on its explanation; and producing the commentary, in the end. After enduring one-year-long period of sickness Pedro da Fonseca dies in Lisbon at 5 a.m. November 4, 1599, seventy-one years old. His obituary underlined his charity, prudence, patience and apostolic zeal and pinpointed several of his roles of power within the Society of Jesus (rector of the Coimbra College, head of Saint Roque in Lisbon, visitor, and assistant in Rome) (see Gomes 1964: XXXIV). Pedro da Fonseca was buried in Saint Roque Church, burial plot number 15. During his lifetime, Fonseca travelled roughly between fourteenth- to eighteen-thousand kilometres with the particularity of only once having requested permission to travel by cart (from Madrid to Lisbon, 1589).



As previously said, to Fonseca is attributed a Sumaria Resposta ao livro que se publicou em Evora sem nome de autor em Março de 1591, intitulado ‘Observationes Constitutionum Societatis Iesu’ dada por ordem do Pe. Po. da Fonseca Visitador da mesma Companhia em Portugal (see Rodrigues 1938a: 382-3, and 374-80 in a more general sense). Also, we owe to Granja (1980: 177-194) the publication of a Spanish translation of Fonseca’s text against comedies. Besides the manuscripts attributed to Pedro da Fonseca by Stegmüller (1931 and 1959) related to Aristotle’s On the Soul and Logics, already mentioned, Stegmüller also refers to the following: In III de Anima; In I-IV Metaphysica and I-IV Metaphysica Excerpta, and De vitio usurae in mutuis (IIª-IIae q. 78). Historian Gomes (1964: LXIII-LXV) considers the Definitiones, Divisiones ac Regulae ex Logica et Physica Aristotelis (Cologne 1622) as apocrypha and mentions the presence of manuscripts attributed to Fonseca in Madrid (Escorial), Oxford (Balliol College), Coimbra, Lisbon and Salamanca. Besides several editions of the Metaphysics, the catalogue by Lohr (1988: 151) attributes two other titles in manuscript to Fonseca – In libros I-V Metaphysicae and In libros I-II De anima – but registers the following two editions and two manuscripts as doubtful: Commentarii in logicam (Frankfurt, 1604), the already quoted Definitiones… (Cologne 1623), In libros I-V Metaphysicae and In III De Anima (these two manuscripts from Coimbra). Since the subject matters of logic and metaphysics will be the object of specific articles in this Encyclopaedia, in what follows we will stick to a brief description of the folowing works by Pedro da Fonseca.

The Gloss on Physics

A Gloss on Physics may now be added, among Fonseca’s works, as well as the Sermon he pronounced in 1557. These two pieces belong to the time Fonseca was lecturing in Coimbra but we ignore the content of the latter and only a short quotation of the former is now known to us, thanks to Longobardi (1623) testimony. Here it is the small section of the Gloss on Physics by Fonseca that has come to our knowledge: «O Padre Fonseca na grosa que fez sobre o primeiro dos Physicos, diz o seguinte: ‘Philosophi antiqui rudi adhuc et balbutiente philosophia solam ferme causam materialem attingerunt, nec vero ut ipsa est, sed rudi quodam modo putaverunt totam essentiam rerum naturalium esse materiam ipsam. Unde hi qui dicebant principia rerum naturalium esse aquam, eo cogebantur fateri omnia secundum essentiam esse aquam, differre tamen accidentibus, ut densitate, raritate, calore, frigora, atque ita in caeteris: quemadmodum nos arte facta omnia quae ex ligno fiunt, dicimus esse ligna secundum substantiam, sed differre figuris inductis per artem. Secundum hoc igitur Philosophos dicit Aristoteles non differre hanc quaestionem, sint ne principia unum an plura, ab hac quaestione sint ne entia naturalia unum an plura, et in reliqua subdivisione, sint ne finita an infinita. Ratio est, quoniam principium et principiatum apud eos nulla ratione distinguebantur secundum essentiam. (…) Quid quid factum est habet principium durationis, ergo quidquid non est factum, non habet tale principium, et per consequens nec finem durationis; sed ex se est infinitum duratione et essentia; et per consequens prorsus unum et immobile. Item quid quid est praeter ens quod ex se habet esse, est non [ens] et nihil. Et ita cum ens ex se habens esse unum tantum sit, efficitur ut ens tale, ens [unum omnimo] sit dumtaxat’». (see Longobardi 1623: 154v-155r).

 The Dialectical Instructions

The eight books entitled Dialectical Instructions (Institutionum Dialecticarum Libri Octo) by “Father Doctor” Pedro da Fonseca were published in 1564, in Lisbon, by the publisher John Blavio. The editor of the contemporary “editio accurata” of this title, Joaquim Ferreira Gomes (1964), reports that it knew fifty-three editions in less than half a century. After the 1564 edition, the Dialectical Instructions knew larger versions in 1574 and 1575, and an altered edition in 1590 (all three published in Coimbra). In 1575 the title had received the necessary authorisations by António de São Domingos O.P., the professor of Theology at the University of Coimbra who will be succeeded in the Chair of Prima by Francisco Suárez; but also by Leão Henriques and Manuel de Quadros, acting on behalf of the Holy Inquisition; and by the Bishop-Count of Coimbra, D. Manuel de Meneses. The “editio accurata” that can be read today was established having as its base the four Portuguese editions published during Pedro da Fonseca’s life (1564, 1574, 1575 and 1590). Published in a two-volumes set and a bilingual edition (by the University of Coimbra Press in 1964), the text reproduces the edition of 1575 and indicates the textual variants of the editions of 1564 and 1590. The Dialectical Instructions are divided as follows: the first book deals with the most used denominations of the names and verbs, immediately after giving the fundamentals of dialectics (ars dialectica) and explaining the nature of the first elements of the proposition (oratio), meaning the name and of the verb (natura nominis et verbi); the second book pays attention to the ways the names and verbs may be classified, meaning the five predicaments (praedicamenta) or predicables (genus, species, differentia, proprium, accidens); the third book dwells with the proposition and its various forms; the fourth book is entirely dedicated to the method of division (dividendi ratio); and the fifth, to the definition (definitione). The content of the remaining three books is as follows: the doctrine on the argumentation, its main four genres (syllogism, enthymeme, induction, and example), plus the ways (via et ratio) to discover the core (medium) of the argument (book 6); the doctrine on the demonstration and the dialectical syllogism, thus explaining, under the Aristotelian topic of the order (ordo), all the particular topics (locos) from which may derive all sorts of arguments (book 7); the Aristotelian doctrine on the fallacious arguments and the “modern” doctrine on the supposition, as well as other properties of the names (book 8). We do not know of any comprehensive and thorough study on this particular Fonseca’s title, first handled, in modern centuries, by Uedelhofen (1916) and Risse (1964). Coxito (1982, 2001 and 2005), as well as Martins (1994), are still the authors who have most contributed to our knowledge about Fonseca’s several theories related to logic, followed by Ashworth (1968 and 2011). Also, Felipe (1996), Gryżenia (1995), and Coxito & Soares (2001) have paid attention to some of Fonseca’s doctrines on logic. In the section dedicated to Logic in “Fonseca’s Bibliography” published by the, the reader may be permanently updated on the various themes receiving scholarly attention.

The Isagoge

Like the previous title, the Isagoge is also a book composed to students usage in schools. In the Dialectical Instructions Pedro da Fonseca says  that he had the intention of publishing a book on the Isagoge (Interim tamen dum commentarios in Aristotelem, Porphyriique Isagogem conscribo, has Dialecticas Instititiones… offero). The Isagoge was published in Lisbon in 1591 and, according to the contemporary editor and translator of this Fonseca’s title (Gomes 1965: XVI), it was issued eighteen times until 1623. Its Lisbon publisher was António Álvares and this first edition received the necessary authorisations by António de Mendonça and Diogo de Sousa, on behalf of the Holy Inquisition; Jerónimo Pereira and Diogo Lameira on behalf of the University Senate; and by João Correia, on behalf of Claudio Acquaviva. Fonseca begins by acknowledging that he wrote the Isagoge to respond to his Jesuit brothers with the scope of producing something richer in doctrine, more certain concerning the truth and more suitable to the general use of the sciences (plenior ad doctrinam, et ad veritatem certior, et ad generalem scientiarum usum commodior). Conscious of having produced an orthodox (ex humana ac divinae philosophiae) and systematic brief reading (verae institutionis forma) of a book written by the Gentile Porphyry (hominis impii et aperti Christi hostis), Fonseca admits that only the final part of his booklet is original (chapter 12). He there discusses the type of the universals unknown by the pagans and related to Christ’s nature, “de aliis quibusdam universalium speciebus quas ethnici philosophi non agnoverunt”. Nevertheless, also by its structure, Fonseca’s Isagoge differs from Porphyry’s homonymous title. In its first part, the Isagoge defines and explains the five predicables and in the second part compares them, explaining the common as well as the different aspects among them all. Each one of the chapters 7 to 11 is dedicated to each one of the five predicables. This title by Fonseca, as he recognises himself, is literary (see the author’s preface), schooling (see Carvalho 2007), problematically (Coxito 2005: 253-281) and thematically (see chapters 5 and 6, Martins 1994) intertwined with metaphysics and may be read in relation with the latest section of the Coimbra Jesuit Course written by Sebastião do Couto (Carvalho (2007 and 2019b). Nevertheless, the contrast between Pedro da Fonseca’s and Sebastião do Couto’s homonymous work is huge (Couto 1606). As far as we know, Pedro da Fonseca’s Isagoge has been translated for the first time into English by João Madeira (2006: i-lxvi). Besides this PhD thesis (Madeira 2006), as said about the Dialectical Instructions, we do not know of any comprehensive and thoroughly study on Fonseca’s Isagoge. Nevertheless, in the section dedicated to Logic in Fonseca’s Bibliography published by the, the reader may permanently check the various themes receiving scholarly attention.

The Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics

During the tentative biography proposed above, we have, for several occasions, referred to particular moments of Pedro da Fonseca’s life decisive to the composition of his Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics. This is his only text we know of that was not written to the purpose of the practical mission of teaching, and Fonseca alludes to this particular “methodological turn” in the Preface of the second edition of the Dialectical Instructions: the Coimbra Academy (nostra haec Conimbricensis Academia) should stick to the method of explaining Aristotle’s texts (in explicandi libris Aristotelis) leaving aside the method of summaries and questions (summulis… ac quaestionibus). According to Martins (1994) the result is a “hybrid structure, in a certain sense”, and a “baroque synthesis of genres”. Returned from his fourth stay in Évora (April 1570), Pedro da Fonseca goes to Lisbon and starts his close study of the Metaphysics by Aristotle probably as a contribution to the future Coimbra Jesuit Course. This happens after a period in which he had been already teaching theology and philosophy and it seems that Luís da Câmara, Miguel Torres, Manuel Álvares or João de Lucena were some of the Jesuits that shared Fonseca’s conviction on the need to start that project by first dealing with metaphysics (que seria mas aproposito começar por la Metaphysica para mas expedición de las cosas, y maior brevedad de lo demas. However, it may be said that in August 1570 Fonseca was beginning instead what will become the first volume of his commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics. The first reference to this future Commentary puts Fonseca actively working (com grande calor) on it in 1571 in Val do Rosal but only in Rome was he able to organize the material to the several volumes that will constitute his impressive philosophical oeuvre. The actual content of the last volume suggests what might have been Fonseca’s working method: he would begin by editing and translating Aristotle’s text, pass to its explanation (explanatio) and end his labour by commenting it. At the centre of the even pages, invariably on the left side of the volumes, Fonseca gives the Greek text; at the centre of the odd pages, invariably on the right side of the volumes, he presents the Latin translation of the original edited text; surrounding theses texts are the explanationes; finally, but only in the three first published volumes, the quaestiones, which is the section in which Fonseca reveals his more personal thought. Five years after arriving in Rome (1577) the first volume (Books I to IV) on Aristotle’s Metaphysics was published by the publishers Francis Zanetus and Bartholomew Tosius. The second volume (Book V) will also be published in Rome (1589), by the publisher Jacob Turnerius, but when Fonseca was already in Portugal for almost seven years. Fonseca achieves the third volume of the Metaphysics (Books VI to IX) between 1594 and 1598 but it will only be published posthumously in Évora in 1604 by the university publisher Manuel de Lyra. The fourth volume will be published in Lyon in 1612 (books X-XIV). Though, this last volume does not offer any commentary on the Aristotelian text, sticks to the explanation of books X to XII and the edition plus translation of the remaining books and chapters. There is no explanation as to the publication of those volumes in three places so different as Rome, Évora and Lyon, as there is no explanation about, in the first place, why being the author in Lisbon the second volume was launched in Rome (Martins 1990: 658), and secondly, why Horace Cardon replaced Manuel de Lyra in editing the last volume. It is, however, to be added that the French publisher Cardon was one of the leading responsible in Europe for the dissemination of the Coimbra Jesuit Course. Contrary to what happens with the two previous titles, we do not know of any modern edition or any translation of this huge but “unfinished” (Martins 1991 and 2019) Fonseca’s philosophical masterpiece. Despite being an incomplete list, Gomes (1964: XLIX-LVII) has counted nine editions of the first volume (between 1587 and 1615 in Rome, Lyon, Frankfurt and Cologne); six, of the second (between 1589 and 1615 in Rome, Lyon, Frankfurt and Cologne); four, of the third volume (between 1605 and 1615, in Évora, Cologne and Lyon); and three, of the last volume (between 1612 and 1629, in Lyon and Cologne). It has been already pinpointed that Fonseca’s Metaphysics predates Suárez’s and this historical fact has given occasion for several interpreters to call one’s attention to the possible influence of the former on the latter. The differences are of course huge, but not only Fonseca’s Quaestiones were seen as being the first attempt to the systematization and autonomy of Aristotle’s Metaphysics made by Suárez’s Disputationes (Carvalho 1951), but also the textual presence of Fonseca in Suárez is undeniable (Elorduy 1955). Also, Martins (1994 and 2019) continues to insist on the significant consequences derived from this double methodology and historical precedence. This issue still waits for a closer and objective attention but, as already recognised by Suárez himself (see Disputationes-Index Aristotelicus I c. 7: 25, IV), Fonseca’s contribution to the history of the reception of Aristotle’s Metaphysics stands not only by the high standard of the edition (Textkritik) he produced but also by the quality and the precision of the Latin translation he made. Besides all the still open issues related to the “unfinished” character of Fonseca’s Commentary on Metaphysics, Martins has presented its entire structure, pinpointing to the particular relevance of the one hundred and ninety quaestiones (most of them subdivided between two and five sections) spread throughout the entire Commentary without neglecting to recognise some of the flaws inevitably linked with such a method (Martins 1994: 15-34). In his effort to read Fonseca’s doctrine of “being” Gryżenia (1995) has pinpointed to what is still an open issue in the overall exegesis on Fonseca, meaning his relations with John Duns Scotus’s doctrines and with Nominalism, in spite of his Thomism in substance (which is also, for the time being, still impossible to duly evaluate). Giacon (1946) studied Fonseca’s theoretical thought and its relation with law, and Praça (1868) plus Solana (1941) are among the first historians of philosophy to pay attention to Fonseca, unfortunately viewd by the latter as a professor of the University of Coimbra. In Portuguese philosophical literature, perhaps the most ignored among foreign scholars, Coxito & Soares (2001: 480-502) did not escape from what seems to be by far the preferable method to interpret Fonseca’s work, meaning the study of singular subject-matters (see also Alves 1998, on imaginary space and time). Contrariwise, Miguel Baptista Pereira (1967), under the topics of “being” and “person”, followed by Martins (1994), under the topics of “logic” and “ontology”, have both essayed a more systematic rendering of Fonseca’s philosophical thought. For other tendencies among the most recent scholarly production on Fonseca’s metaphysical thought and its implications with other several domains, the reader of this article is asked to check periodically the updated Bibliography published by the The influence of the Commentary on Metaphysics by Fonseca on Jesuit, Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinist European universities has not yet been researched and the same applies to the study of its dissemination throughout the school libraries of the New World.

The Fundamentos and the Escusas

The manuscript that Granja (1980) found in the General Library of the University of Granada (Caja C-26 (11), fol. 9r-27r) is the Spanish translation of Fonseca’s original, done by another Jesuit, Fundamentos por los cuales parece que se deuen prohibir las Comedias que oy se representan Ordenados en lengua Portuguesa por el Pe. Dr. Pedro de Fonseca de la Companhia de Jesus y traduzidos en castellano por otro saçerdote de la Companhia. This manuscript also includes the Escusas que algunos dan para que no se prohiban las dichas comedias. Both texts must be dated between 1596 and 1598. The editor pinpoints Fonseca’s “concern in safeguarding public morality” and interprets both texts as a “firm testimony that theatrical plays were not absolutely denied to the Portuguese who lived in the last years of 16th century” (Granja 1980: 177). The first text, Fundamentos, presents four foundations to prohibit in Portugal comedy plays, the first three ascribed to theology; the third adding the law to theology, and the last ascribed to politics. Saints Chrysostome and Paul are the only authorities quoted, but King Philip’s representative, the Cardinal Archduke Prince Albert, plus Martin Luther, King John III, as well as Paris and Coimbra universities, the Bishop of Coimbra and the Lisbon Hospital of All Saints are all mentioned. Women and vagabond men are said to be the main actors in comedies then but Fonseca prefers the older custom of playing “autos and farces” that during traditional festivals “local men and honest youth” used to play with “no trace of scandal and harm”. In the longer section of the Escusas, Fonseca uses the philosophical method of answering to a question/excuse and Aristotle, as well as Saint Thomas, Cardinal Cajetan and Sylvester of Ferrara, plus Plato, Saint Cyprian, Alexander of Hales, and the Bishop of Avila, Juan de las Cuevas, are among the names referred to. The fact that Juan Velásquez de las Cuevas, who had been confessor of the Archduke and Vice-Roy of Portugal, Cardinal Albert, is explicitly said to be “now bishop of Ávila” allows us to date this particular intervention by Fonseca not before than August 29, 1596 and no later than March 11, 1598 (another reference to an earlier date: Fonseca reports that “more than thirteen years ago” the policy regarding the presence of public women in ships had been changed by the Adelantado, meaning the civil and military governor). To sum up, we may say that, based on moral grounds, Fonseca shows a conservative attitude towards theatrical performances but, at the same time, he gives evidence of being very political as regards his city and country.


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A Tentative Chronology

Chronology (1527-1658)

DATESPF = Pedro da Fonseca; CC = Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course or “Cursus Conimbricensis”; CA = Coimbra College of Arts; CJ = Coimbra College of Jesus: CMA = Commentariorum Petri Fonsecae (…) In Metaphysicorum Aristotelis Stagiritae: (*) = Letter reproduced by Rodrigues 1938a: 585-89; (**) = Obituary reproduced by Rodrigues 1938a: 590-94; (***) Documents reproduced by Gomes 1964: XXII-XXIII, XXVI-XXVIII, XXX-XXXIV.
1527/1528PF birth in Proença-a-Nova
1527/41PF's youth in his household (rudiments in Latin)
1540 (July, 26)Francis Xavier writes to Ignatius about the future CJ
1541/42PF's leaves his household
1542 (June, 13)The Jesuits arrive in Coimbra to found the CJ
1542/47PF living in a noble's house
1547PF enrols in CA
1548 (March, 17)PF enters the Society of Jesus
1550/51PF in Spain and afterwards in Sanfins
1550 (November, 15)King John III visits the CA, received with a theatre play
1551/54PF student in Évora (and in Lisbon afterwards?)
1551 (November, 4)Simão Rodrigues in the CJ
1552 (July, 9)Miguel Torres "visits" the CJ
1552/53the Portuguese province endures a period of tribulation
1552/54PF teaches arts in the CJ
1552/55PF studies theology in CJ
1553 (July, 7)Jerome Nadal arrives in Portugal
1553 (August)four Coimbra Jesuit teachers sent to Évora to teach
1555PF brief second stay in Évora
1555 (October)the S.J. receives the full administration of the CA
1555/56back to Coimbra PF teaches in the CA: 3rd course
1556 (?)PF’s Examen pro scholasticis (***)
1556 (September, 9)King John III orders to give the M.A. degree to PF
1556/57PF teaches in the CA: 4rd course
1557/58PF teaches in the CA: 1st course
1557 (June, 15)PF pronounces a sermon in Coimbra by the death of John III
1557 (September, 9)PF visits Tomar to do business for the SJ
1558/59PF teaches in the CA: 2nd course
1558PF's teaching fame is explicitly praised to Rome
1559/60PF teaches in the CA: 3rd course
1559publication in Rome of the Index librorum prohibitorum
1560 (February, 9)Miguel de Torres to Rome: some dictations are ready to print
1560/61 (March)PF teaches in the CA: 4rd course
1561Nadal instructs PF to compose CC
1561PF’s Examen commune (***)
1561PF illness; second stay in Sanfins, brief stay in Porto (***)
1562 (January, 14)PF writes to Nadal announcing his plans for the CC (***)
1562 (January, 14)PF confesses being a beginner in moral theology (***)
1562 (January, 14)PF informs the existence of a course in mathematics CJ
1562 (November, 25)Gonçalves Vaz informs Nadal: PF is in Lisbon writing CC
1564PF teaches theology in the CJ (between May and August)
1564 (October)/67PF teaches speculative theology in Évora
1564PF teaches theology in the CJ (between May and August)
1566 (?)PF teaches in the CJ on the "scientia conditionata"
1566 (April, 9)PF writes to Rome about the transference of the CA uptown
1566 (April, 9)PF to Rome: Antonio Cordeses does not appreciate the studies
1567 (March/April)PF dean of the CJ/CA (until 1569)
1567 (October, 29)Francis Borgia aks Leão Henriques to send to Rome PF's CC
1568 (November, 17)PF informs the construction works of the CJ had not begun yet
1569PF’s manuscript, “De utio usurae in mutuis”
1569 (May, 1)Gómez's letter to Rome: the work related to the CC diminishes
1569 (May, 15)PF is optimistic about the construction of the new SJ buildings
1569 (November, 1)PF to Rome: the quarrel with the Order of Christ was ended
1569 (December, 16)PF ends his charge as dean of the CJ/CA
1569 (December, 19)PF describes the study of theology at the CJ
1570 (March)PF presides over Início de Martins' PhD and gets his own degree
1570 (February)PF lectures Vespers in Évora, replacing Luis de Molina
1570 (April)PF leaves Évora Vespers Chair
1570 (September, 19)ordered to review CC, PF begins CMA (***)
1570 (September, 19)Luis da Cámara and Miguel Torres support PF's decision CMA
1570 (September, 19)João de Lucena, secretary of PF
1571PF in Val de Rosal (Charneca da Caparica) composing the CMA
1571the provincial sends Luis Álvares to Rosal to get PF's counselling
1572 (January, 2)Manuel Álvares testifies PF actual labour up the CMA
1572 (August, 25)King Sebastian signs the Alvará related to SJ books publication
1572 (December)PF attends in Évora the provincial congregation
1573PF in Rome (until 1582)
1573 (February, 15)Jorge Serrão tells Rome PF must return to finish the CC
1574PF reaffirms his commitment to come back to the CC (see 1589)
1575 (March, 29)Manuel Rodrigues to Rome: PF is late, glosses must be published
1575publication of the 2nd edition of PF’s Dialectical Instructions
1576Manuel Rodrigues insists again on publishing the glosses
1577 (August, 23)PF signs the Dedication in CMA I
1577publication in Rome of the CMA I
1579the provincial Congregation asks permission to publish the CC
1579Mercuriano positively answers to the provincial request CC
1580Sebastião de Morais carries from Rome the instructions CC
1581Acquaviva gives a formal and definitive authorisation CC
1581PF designated for the Ratio Studiorum commission
1582/89PF returns to Portugal and leads St. Roque House in Lisbon
1582the Prior of Crato expels the Jesuits from Angra, Azores
1582 (August, 29)Molina's name is evoked to the authorship of the CC
1582 (August, 29)the Prior of Crato expels the Jesuits from Angra, Azores
1582(?)/1583(?)Góis’s Physica is finished
1583 (March, 6)Molina: the CC is a bad version of his own better course
1583PF reforms Saint Martha's Convent, w/ D. Jorge de Almeida
1584 (April, 21)Molina to Rome: some criticize my bad Latin (in relation to CC)
1584PF founds an orphanage for girls, at the expenses of Diogo L. Solis
1585 (February, 22)PF's letter concerning the purchase of Campolide (Lisbon)
1585 (April, 28)PF introduces in Lisbon a style of penance
1585 (April, 28)PF, to the general: the Inquisition is "an odious matter"
1585 (May, 11)PF writes about former S.J., Francisco Varea, now OFM
1585 (July, 29)PF praises the level of his Saint Roque House (Lisbon)
1585 (August, 14)Morais reports: Góis is now finishing De Generatione
1586 (May, 22)PF insists: the level of his Saint Roque House is good
1587King Philip designates PF bishop of Japan
1587 (February, 27)PF writes from Lisbon praising Inácio de Lima
1587 (February, 28)PF does not accept Japan bishopric
1587 (February, 16)Jorge Serrão reports PF gave Statutes to Saint Martha's
1587 (May, 21)PF writes to the general about the moral state of the province
1587 (May, 23)PF letter about the house for the Lisbon noviatate
1587 (June, 17)PF, again Inácio de Lima and the novitiate house of Lisbon
1587 (June, 27)PF sends to Acquaviva half of the CMA II (***)
1587 (July, 18)PF sends the second part of CMA II (***)
1587 (October, 17)PF receives in Lisbon holy relics
1588PF offers to Proença-a-Nova one relic
1588 (November, 12)PF is received by the King in Madrid (El Escorial)
1588 (December, 10)PF visits the Cardinal of Toledo (*)
1589publication of the CMA II in Rome; PF, unable to finish the CC
1589/93PF visitor of Portugal / quarrels with provincial João Correia
1589 (March, 23)PF in Madrid: the SJ cannot accept the university to annexe CA
1589 (May)PF asks permission to return from Madrid by cart
1589PF returns from Madrid
1589PF asks Cardinal Albert: Luis de Morais cannot be a bishop
1589PF urges Luis de Cerqueira to accept becoming a bishop
1589 (December, 30)João Correia about Molina: he creates embarrassments
1590PF founds the Irish College of Lisbon, with John Olingo
1590 (July, 14) Molina again: PF is my main enemy (see 1582, 1584 and 1589)
1591PF writes to King Philip about the "libelo infamatório"
1591 (October, 21)PF’s final signature on the Isagoge
1592 (January, 4)PF sends Pedro Rodrigues to Luanda (Angola)
1592 (January, 24)PF put an end to L. Carvalho's & G. Coelho's affair
1592 (January, 25)PF's reservations about Góis's work and personality
1592PF still doing business: it is advisable to sell S. Antão-o-Velho
1592 (April, 18)PF writes to Rome about his mission as visitor
1592 (May, 16)PF letter reporting the King's decision on the CA (see 1589)
1592 (May, 16)PF: the SJ may abandon the CA for good if needed
1592 (June, 13)PF reaffirms, deliver the CA to the university
1592 (July, 11)PF in Lisbon: again, to leave the CA
1592 (July, 31)João Álvares insists: PF must write CC on Logic and Metaphysics
1592 (July, 31)João Álvares corroborates PF's reservations regarding Góis
1592 (August, 8)PF in Campolide: he smoothes his opinion on leaving CA
1592PF still doing business: it is advisable to sell S. Antão-o-Velho
1592 (August, 8)PF is told SJ had to participate in the Inquisition
1592PF designates Brás Viegas to read Scripture in Évora university
1592 (August, 31)João Álvares: Góis regrets not seeing his name in the CC
1592Sebastião do Couto, PF's aid
1593 (February, 1)establishment of the first "Mesa" of the Irish College of Lisbon
1593 (March, 24)PF returns to the affair, the annexation of the CA
1593 (May, 15)PF still involved with the CA/university/King quarrel
1593publication of Góis’s De Caelo (CC) in Lisbon
1593publication of Góis’ Ethica (CC), in Lisbon
1593publication of Góis’s Meteororum (CC), in Lisbon
1593publication of Góis’s Parua Naturalia (CC), in Lisbon
1593 (August, 17)Lyon provincial, B. Castorius, the French edition of Góis’s Physica
1593PF in Lisbon, elected by the provincial congregation
1593 (September, 5)PF to Rome: a seminar to missions (India, Brazil, Guinea) is needed
1593PF in Rome attending the general congregation
1594 (August, 31)Francisco de Gouveia to Rome: who may write Metaphysics?
1594 (December)CMA III finished (?); PF w/ Pedro Luís, writing on Metaphysics
1596 (February)Nicolau Godinho helps PF with CMA III
1596 (August, 7)Baltasar Barreira: PF regrets Suárez's refusal to come to Coimbra
1596 (December)PF is pleased with the status of the CC publication
1597CMA IV almost finished, says PF in CMA III (Dedication)
1597publication of Góis’s De Generatione (CC), in Coimbra
1598 (March)publication of Góis’s De Anima (CC), in Coimbra
1598 (October, 22)PF gets sick (after having stayed in Évora w/ CMA
1599 (November, 4)PF dies in Lisbon, 5 o'clock in the morning, aged 73 (**)
1602CMA III posthumously published in Évora
1602 (November, 8)provincial João Correia to Rome: CMA III is of high value
1602 (November, 8)Couto begins to revise Góis’s Physica CC
1604publication of the Logica Furtiva
1606Fernão Rebelo in Rome: S. Couto may write CC Metaphysics
1606publication of the Dialectica by Couto CC
1607first foreign edition (Lyon) of Couto’s Dialectica
1612CMA IV posthumously published in Lyon